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Lung diseases

Reactive airway disease

10/20/2006

Question:

My 4 year old son was diagnosed with reactive airway disease when he was 4 months old. I was wondering if this is asthma or not? Also how to treat it?

Answer:

"Reactive airway disease" is a term that usually is used for wheezing that comes and goes because the airways are irritated and constrict off and on.  This is actually the problem in asthma, too. 

In a four month old, especially, there can be a number of problems besides asthma that can cause off and on wheezing - so some physicians are hesitant to say a child has "asthma" for certain - they'll use the term "reactive airway disease" instead. 

If your now four year old is still having off and on wheezing problems or frequent bouts of coughing, there is a good chance he does have asthma.  This is especially true if he is already being given asthma medicines (like albuterol), and they help him.  You need to discuss this further with your doctor, however. 

If your doctor does decide that the symptoms are being caused by asthma, there are a number of medicines that can help.  Albuterol, and sometimes steroid liquids given by mouth, are used during times when the symptoms are bothering him.  If he has symptoms (cough, wheezing, difficulty breathing) frequently, sometimes daily medicines are given to PREVENT symptoms and calm down the irritated airways.  Exactly which medications would be best for him is something that his doctor would need to determine after going over his history and examination. 

I've attached several links that have more information about asthma. 

Related Resources:

Asthma and Reactive Airway Disease (RAD) (Helping Hand)
Asthma Resources
Asthma Interactive Tutorial
Asthma Movie (Columbus Children's)

For more information:

Go to the Lung diseases health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Elizabeth D Allen, MD Elizabeth D Allen, MD
Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatrics
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University